I know Julie E (not to be confused with Julie M who makes an appearance in my book) through my friend Sharon. I watched from afar as Julie worked on her doctorate while starting a family and holding down a job as an elementary school teacher, and I admired her determination and ability to balance all that was on her plate. I was grateful to have the chance to get to know Julie a little better recently when we flew down to Southern California to participate in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Here’s my interview with her:

2012 Training Partners Post-Race Interview with Julie Echols

Julie, this was your first half marathon! What made you decide you wanted to do one?

Encouragement from others!

How did you pick the one you did?

My sister (see below) picked it.  It was also a family vacation that we could enjoy (since it was in Disneyland).

Talk about your training: How did you train? What worked? What would you do differently next time?

I trained by running/walking each week.  I tried to run 4 times a week, devoting most of the weekends to running with my running partner, Sharon.  The long run on the weekend was always difficult but gratifying.  It was very challenging to fit running in during the week (since I work full time and have a family).  The most helpful and motivating element of training was having a training partner. (I highly recommend it!)

Next time I will make the week day runs a priority, but some of them will have to take place on a treadmill.

Did you feel ready? What were your biggest fears going in?

No, I didn’t feel ready.  I was sick the week prior and was unable to run.  I was afraid I would not finish.

Tell us about the race: What did you love? What was hard? What surprised you?

The race was overwhelming.  This was a huge event with 12,000 athletes.  I wasn’t worried about finishing the race until I saw the magnitude of this big event.  It made failing to finish the race seem like a total disaster.  If I had signed up to do a smaller no-frills event, I might have felt differently the night before.  I certainly would have slept better.

The course was filled with fun activities, music, hoopla… but it was surreal.  At the beginning of the race I was engaged with the sunrise, the Disney characters, and my surroundings.  As the day went on I was so unfamiliar with the course and my location I became robotic as I ran.

The hardest part was dealing with dehydration.  Usually when I run I start to feel good around mile 3.  This time, at mile 3 I was totally spent.  I had cotton mouth, weakness and dizziness.  I had to resort to walking far more than I had planned.  I was disappointed in my performance.

I was surprised at the feeling when I was finished.  I felt more relieved than elated.  I was also surprised at how fast I recovered.  I was sore in the evening, but by the next day much of my soreness was gone and I didn’t have hardly any pain.

It was surprising to me how other people reacted.  Many people felt like I had accomplished something monumental.  While I certainly did feel that way, it wasn’t as gratifying as some of my training runs due to my performance.  I am still processing those emotions and thoughts.

Do you think you’ll ever do another one?

Yes, already signed up (for the Happy Girls Half with Sharon).  I have some unfinished business.

If so, what are your hopes for future races?

I hope to be more prepared, to run more in my training, to be hydrated, and to enjoy it more.

What did you learn about yourself on this journey?

The week by week training was really satisfying and provided instant gratification.  Adding a mile each week was proof I could achieve the goal.  I am still chasing the deep sense of satisfaction I thought I would get by finishing the race.   In this instance, the journey was much better than the finish line.

A huge thank you to Julie for agreeing to be interviewed! Julie, I really appreciate you sharing the difficulties you had because long races really can be tough. They push us beyond our known limits and that doesn’t always feel good. Still, you pressed through extreme physical discomfort and crossed the finish line with determination to do it again.

You also bring up a good point about the size of the first race. For some people these big events are the perfect choice, but they can be daunting for others. Thanks again for giving us some food for thought.

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